Easter Through the Eyes…Easter 2015

Easter Through the Eyes…Easter 2015

Happy Easter! What a wonderful day it is!

Easter brings with it wonderful songs, including To Him Who Sits on the Throne, Christ the Lord is Risen Today, Christ Arose, Behold the Lamb, On A Morning Like This, and Easter Song. Easter also brings with it the opportunity to express thanks to Jesus in prayer. Thanks that on the third day after His death, He rose from the grave.

Now, for the sermon, let’s celebrate of Easter, doing so through the eyes of some of the people who witnessed what went on during that very special day almost 2000 years ago, both in the morning and during the late afternoon and evening.

First, let’s look at Easter through the eyes of a group of women.

According to the Gospel accounts, there were four women who got the first view of Jesus’ resurrection - the results of it. The four were Mary Magdalene, another Mary, that one the mother of the apostle James, Salome, and Joanna.

Very early on the first Easter morning, the women decided to go visit the tomb in which Jesus had been placed on Friday. Their intent was to anoint His body with spices.

Actually, the women had earlier made the decision to do that. They had the spices ready by very early Easter morning. But what they wanted to do is intriguing for two reasons.

One is that Jesus’ body had already been anointed. That had happened when Jesus had been placed in the tomb. Two men - Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus - had already done what was customary to do. They had anointed Jesus before wrapping Him in His burial cloths.

Why did the women plan to do what had already been done? I do not know, though perhaps they wanted to make sure the men had done the anointing properly. Or maybe they simply wanted to add to what had been done. Maybe it was their way to pay their respects to Jesus. Maybe it would help them as they grieved over the death of Jesus.

Second, how did the women expect to get into Jesus’ tomb to anoint Him? They no doubt had seen the stone that had been used to close the tomb. It was a very large, very heavy stone. The custom was to place such stones in a v-shaped groove, thereby making it virtually impossible of them to be moved.

Besides that, there were guards stationed at the tomb, and the tomb has been sealed.

It would be impossible for the women to get inside the tomb. What were they thinking? How would they be able to accomplish what they wanted to do?

Again, I do not know, but the women went anyway, their intent being to anoint Jesus.

Did they accomplish what they wanted to do? No. However, it was not because of the problems just mentioned - the problems of the stone, the guards, and the seal. Instead, it was because, when they got to the tomb, Jesus was no longer inside it. Which, when they got there, they saw. They saw because the stone - the big, heavy stone that was sealed and guarded that no one could move, at least without special tools - had been moved.

Who moved it? An angel of God moved it. An act carried out with a great earthquake, after which the angel sat on the stone.

One of the Gospels reports there were two angels inside the tomb. So maybe there were three angels there. But the description is the same. He or they wore clothes that were as white as snow, and their faces shown with great brightness.

So overpowering was the appearance, the guards who had been stationed around the tomb trembled. They trembled so much they fainted. They fainted so completely, they became as dead men.

But the women did not respond that way. They did not faint. Instead, they were amazed by what and who they saw.

And they were amazed at who they did not see. They did not see Jesus, which was confirmed by the angel, who said to the women, “Do not be afraid. I know you seek Jesus, who you know was crucified. You know He was here. But He is not here anymore, for He has risen.” And get this that the angel added. “He has risen, as He said He would do.”

At least toward the end of His three-year ministry before His crucifixion, Jesus had alluded to the fact He was going to die. But yes, He had also said He would rise from the dead. That was the hope He wanted to instill in all His followers. The rising had occurred, just as He had said.

The angel invited the women to enter the tomb to confirm it was empty. I assume they did so. They then received an assignment. They were to go to the disciples, who were in hiding that morning, for fear of the authorities that had seen to it Jesus was killed. The women were to go to the disciples and report to them what they had just learned. That Jesus was no longer in the tomb. That He was no longer there because He had risen from the dead.

More on that assignment in a moment, but first, let’s consider Easter through the eyes of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning.

They loved Jesus. They loved Him so much they continued to want to tend to Him.
    
They were willing to risk danger in going to Him. As the disciples knew, it could be very dangerous for anyone who had been associated with Jesus to be seen in public. Feelings against Jesus were still very strong. Apparently the women did not care about the danger. Their desire to show their love of Him was stronger than their fear.
    
That allowed them to see - they were the first to see - that Jesus was no longer dead, but risen from the grave. Which they saw by the tomb being empty. Which they saw a bit later when Jesus met with at least some of the women. He appeared to them, fully alive.

The challenge is clear. Will I - as I have in some earlier messages this season, I ask myself, but perhaps you will want to ask yourself - will I love Jesus so much that my desire to tend to Him - to honor Him and serve Him - will continue? Will I continue to serve Him even if doing so might be dangerous? I should. I pray I will.

Why? Because Jesus did, nearly 2000 years ago, rise from death. He continues to be alive today. That is what we are celebrating.

Four women were the first to see the empty tomb. At least some of them were the first to see Jesus following His resurrection. They were given the assignment to report what they knew to the disciples. Which they did.

And by the way, the assignment included a very important phrase. As it is recorded in the Gospel of Mark, the assignment was to tell “the disciples and Peter,” not only that Jesus was alive, but that He would be meeting with them.

That is a very important phrase because remember Peter, on the night of Jesus’ arrest? While Jesus was on trial, Peter, who had bragged about being so strong and so loyal to Jesus, had denied Him three times.

I wonder what Peter felt like after that. Probably like a failure. Probably completely unworthy. Maybe hopeless. But the assignment - the assignment given by the angel, who was speaking for Jesus - was to tell the disciples and Peter what had happened. Peter was named specifically. What hope there is in that phrase. The hope that no matter how much anyone has failed, Jesus still loves and cares, and is willing to give another chance.

Of course, Jesus’ love, care, and willingness to give more chances need to be taken advantage of. Which did happen with Peter when the women reported to the disciples that Jesus was once again alive.

There were two disciples who acted when they heard the report. Peter was one. The other was John. They left where they were hiding and went to the tomb, I guess to confirm what the women had told them.

It is interesting that they, like the women, overcame their fear. They left where they were. They went out in public and headed toward where Jesus had been entombed.

And they did not just go. They ran. That is how excited they were.

John arrived first. I guess he was a faster runner than Peter. He stopped at the entrance of the tomb and stooped to look in.

Imagine his surprise when he looked at where Jesus should have been and saw nothing but the cloths in which Jesus had been wrapped before His burial. Just the cloths. No body in them.

Then Peter arrived. He did not stop at the entrance, but ran into the tomb, where he, too, noticed no body, but only the burial cloths.

He noticed something special about the cloths. The cloths that had covered Jesus’ body were folded. The cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was away from the body cloths. The head cloth was rolled up.

Which is also an important part of the report. You see, some people were going to say Jesus’ body was gone because it had been stolen. But that could not have happened.

First, the tomb had been sealed and it was under guard by soldiers. That in itself would have kept thieves away. Bt even if thieves had entered the tomb, they would not have unwrapped the body because of the anointing that had been done right after Jesus’ death. The spices would still be on the cloths. The spices were expensive. The thieves would not have left the spice-saturated cloths behind. And even if they had, they would not have taken the time to fold the body cloths and roll up the head cloth.

The scene argues against any explanation of the empty tomb other than Jesus had come back to life through the miracle of resurrection.

Then John entered the tomb. He, too, saw how the cloths were arranged. It is reported that at that moment, he believed, which means he began to recall what Jesus had said. That He would die, which had happened. That on the third day after that, He would rise from the dead. Had that happened? It appeared it had. John believed.

Peter and John then went home. But let’s consider Easter through their eyes.

At first, they were afraid. But they loved Jesus. Including Peter, who had just a few days earlier denied Him. They loved Jesus so much that when it appeared something had happened to His body, they went to investigate.
    
They did that despite the danger in doing so. Again, it could have been very dangerous for anyone who had been associated with Jesus to be seen in public. But their desire to check on Jesus was stronger than their fear.
    
That allowed them to see - they were the second to see - that Jesus was no longer dead, but risen from the grave. Not stolen, but gone because of a miracle.

The challenge. Do I - will I - love Jesus so much that I will continue to investigate the Risen Jesus, doing so by studying His word in the Bible, by praying, by fellowshiping with others who believe in Him? Will I continue to do those things even if doing so might be dangerous? I should. I pray I will.

Why? Because Jesus did, nearly 2000 years ago, rise from death. He continues to be alive today That is what we are celebrating.

Four women were the first to see the empty tomb. Peter and John were the next to see the empty tomb. Later that day, two others came face-to-face with the glory of Easter.

The two were men who were walking from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus, about seven miles away. As they walked, they talked about all the things that had recently happened in Jerusalem. All the things concerning Jesus.

As they walked and talked, someone joined them. That someone was Jesus, but they did not recognize Him. Maybe the sun was in the eyes of the men. Maybe their eyes were downcast with sadness so they did not look at Jesus fully. Maybe God kept their eyes from recognizing Him, but for some reason, the two men did not recognize the one who had joined them was Jesus.   

When He joined them, Jesus asked, “What are you talking about?” That caused the two men to stop for a moment and exclaim, “What? Are You the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What thing?” Jesus asked. They responded, “What everyone there has been and is talking about. Things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. About how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death, and then crucified him.”

The men also said, “We had hoped He was the one to redeem Israel, but apparently not. He died three days ago and was buried.”

They added, “This morning some women amazed us. They were at the tomb early. About sun up. They found the tomb to be empty. They did not find Jesus’ body. That is what they said. The women also talked about seeing angels, who said Jesus was alive. And Peter and John went to the tomb. They found it just as the women had said. But all that seems so strange.”

The two men and Jesus resumed walking. As they walked, Jesus joined the conversation, beginning with these words. “Oh foolish men and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” That was an interesting way to start. I wonder if the two who had been walking alone thought that was kind of a rude way to be addressed by someone they had allowed to join them.

But Jesus continued. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?” Then, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus interpreted to the two men in all the Scriptures the things concerning the Chris.t

What an deep, theological talk that was. A talk that lasted until they drew close to Emmaus.

It appeared Jesus was going to continue on, but the two men stopped Him, encouraging Him to stay with them. It was at night. The men assumed their companion was tired. And traveling at night was dangerous.

The men invited Jesus to stay with them. Jesus agreed.
Before too long, a meal was prepared, which the men invited Jesus to enjoy as well. It was during the meal that Jesus took the bread and blessed it. He then broke it and gave it to them. Which was exactly what had happened during the last meal Jesus had had with His disciples. Which must have been reported to those two men from Emmaus.

Suddenly, the eyes of the men were opened. Suddenly, they recognized the one with them was Jesus.

At that very moment, Jesus vanished out of their sight/ Out of the house. Which gave the men a chance to continue the discussion they had had on the road.

But now, the discussion was not centered on sadness. It was centered on amazement. They said to one other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road? While He opened to us the Scriptures?”

That very hour, the two men left the house and returned to Jerusalem. Remember it was at night, so they were tired. Remember it was dangerous to travel at night. The two overcame both fatigue and danger. They returned to Jerusalem, where they went to where the disciples were.

The two men were ready to joyously report what had happened to them. They wanted to let the disciples know that what the women had reported earlier was true. However, before they could say what they wanted to say, the disciples had news for them. They joyously announced that Jesus was alive. They knew that because He had appeared to Peter.

Then, after the two from Emmaus were able to report what had happened to them, Jesus appeared to all the disciples. As quickly as He had vanished from the house in Emmaus, He appeared where the disciples were. He appeared, standing among them.

The disciples were startled and afraid. I think the suddenness of it caused that. But Jesus asked, “Why are you troubled, and why do questions rise in your hearts? Look at My hands and My feet. [Hands and feet through which nails had been driven.] Look. And touch. See that it is Me.”
 
And then, to prove He was alive - that He was not some kind of ghost - He asked for food. He was given a piece of broiled fish, which He ate.

After that, Jesus explained Scripture to them, thereby proving that everything the Bible says about the Savior, He had fulfilled, including His death and His resurrection.

Let’s consider Easter through the eyes of the two men from Emmaus.

At first, they were sad. They were sad because they had trusted that Jesus was the Savior, but He had died. But when they met Jesus - when they recognized Him - their sadness turned to great joy. Joy that caused them to overcome fatigue and danger. Joy that caused them to want to share what they knew with others.
    
Joy that allowed others to share. I am intrigued that the two men did not seem to be bothered when the disciples gave their announcement first. They were willing to wait their turn. It was as if they knew the joy of Jesus’ resurrection should be felt by as many people as possible.

The challenge.  
    
This one for you if you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior. Will you allow sadness to be turned to joy? All you have to do is recognize Jesus for who He is and trust in Him. Pray to be forgiven of your sins. Pray that He will lead you to live righteously. That is all that is required.

Pray that way even now. It is the only way for you to truly know - truly take advantage of - the meaning of Easter. Please accept Jesus if you have not already done so. Pray about that now.
    
And this for those of us who have accepted Jesus. Will we share with others about Jesus? Even when we are tired? Even if sharing Jesus might cause danger? Will we share Jesus?
    
And will we rejoice when we are not the only ones sharing Jesus? Will we rejoice when many people preach that through Jesus, anyone and everyone can repent and be forgiven, thereby saved from their sins?

Nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus rose from death. Four women were the first to see the evidence of that. Peter and John were next. Later that day, two men from Emmaus came face-to-face with the glory of it.

Jesus continues to be alive today. That is what we are celebrating. Happy Easter!

Today’s closing song is Because He Lives. We will sing the chorus, then verse 1, followed by the chorus a second time. Let’s sing in celebration.

Because He lives I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He hold the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus,
He came to love, heal, and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.
 
Because He lives I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He hold the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

Lord, thank You for coming to earth, which we celebrated on Christmas. Thank You for dieing for us, which we celebrated on Friday. Thank You for Your resurrection, which we celebrate today.

What a joyous day this is. A day to joyously proclaim that You are the Risen Savior. We thank You. We praise You. We worship You. Amen.

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